01 Dec 2020, 14:11
Edgar Meza

Energy demand rising significantly at Germany's data centres

Data centres will consume 16 billion kWh of electricity in Germany this year, according to a study by the Berlin-based Borderstep Institute for Innovation and Sustainability. The research institute found that the energy requirement of data centres in the country has increased by 1 billion kilowatt hours compared to 2019. The ongoing coronavirus crisis is affecting the various types of data centres very differently, the study found. Investments in smaller hubs operated by companies for their own purposes, for example, have in many cases decreased significantly due to the difficult economic situation. In contrast, many cloud data centres have benefited from the corona pandemic, according to Borderstep, which notes that demand for video services, online collaboration and online shopping has increased significantly.

Overall, the pandemic has not halted the trend of increasing energy demand in the digital sector. “From an environmental point of view, however, this development should not necessarily be assessed as negative,” Borderstep states, as digitisation could make a "massive contribution" to saving resources. Many trips, for example, had been replaced by digital alternatives during the crisis. A four-hour video conference between four people on laptops produces just 0.73 kilograms (kg) of CO2 emissions, the study found. Travelling to such a meeting would result in CO2 emissions several orders of magnitude higher, ranging from 65 kg by train to almost 500 kg by plane. During the first lockdown from March to May, working from home saved up to 760,000 tonnes of CO2, according to the study. Data centre energy demand in Europe rose percent between 2010 and 2020, from around 56 to around 87 terawatt hours per year, with most of the demand in Northern and Western Europe. Cloud computing will account for 40 percent of data centres’ energy demand in 2020 and that share is expected to increase to 60 percent by 2025.

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